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France

French citizens' panel backs medically assisted suicide

A panel set up at the request of President François Hollande recommended legalising assisted suicide in France
A panel set up at the request of President François Hollande recommended legalising assisted suicide in France AFP/Fred Dufour

A citizens' panel has recommended that France legalise medically assisted suicide, one of President François Hollande's campaign promises in 2012, but opposed euthanasia.

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Medically-assisted suicide, when a doctor provides enough lethal substances to a patient who uses them to end his or her life, has caused lively debate in France, as in many other countries.

The panel, called the "Conference of Citizens", was made up of 18 citizens picked by a polling company to represent the French population.

It concluded that medically assisted suicide it is “a legitimate right” that should be given to people who are close to death or suffering from a terminal illness.

But they cautioned that the patient's lucidity and ability to make decisions, should be evaluated by at least two doctors.

And they opposed fully legalising euthanasia, which is when a doctor administers the lethal doses of medicine him- or herself., except for in very specific circumstances, such as when someone cannot give direct consent.

Assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland and The Netherlands and Belgium allow euthanasia.

A 2005 law allows for passive euthanasia, where someone can cause the death of another person by withholding or withdrawing life-supporting treatment.

Opinion polls suggest that most French people are in favour of legalising euthanasia for the terminally ill but Catholic groups are vehemently opposed to it and have called for protests.

Monday’s report is part of a series of consultations intended to prepare a law on the issue.

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